Easter in Austria is a time to experience Austrian traditions at their best. Plan your Easter in Austria with this guide to the best Easter markets, music concerts, and resorts for an Easter ski break. It’s filled with lots of useful information about the local traditions to help you prepare for your trip.
The best places to spend Easter in Austria
The best place to spend Easter in Austria depends on what dates Easter falls on. If it’s in March, head to the mountains for some excellent spring skiing and to enjoy the last of the snow. If it’s in April, you’re probably better off closer to a city where you can opt for some sightseeing and indoor activities if the mountains are inaccessible.
Vienna, Salzburg, and Tyrol (particularly Innsbruck and Hall in Tirol) are good bases for Easter in Austria. While they all have Easter markets to visit during the day, there are a number of musical highlights to look forward to over the holiday period.
Easter in Tyrol (Innsbruck and Hall in Tirol)
Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, and the neighbouring town of Hall in Tirol are the places to best experience Easter in Tyrol. Not only do both have great Easter markets, but this is where the Osterfestival Tirol or Tyrol Easter Festival takes place.
Read more: The ultimate Innsbruck sightseeing guide
Innsbruck Easter Market
Held in front of the famous Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) in the heart of the historic old town, the Innsbruck Easter market is where Austrian traditions are showcased best. You will see Tyroleans in their traditional dress performing Easter dances, and find out what “Frühschoppen” is.
Tip: If you want to join the latter, you must be prepared to have a beer before lunch!
Innsbruck Easter market dates: 22 March to 2 April 2018, from 11:00 onwards
Hotel tip: Stage 12 is in the pedestrian area of Maria Theresa Street and only 300 m from the Golden Roof.
Hall in Tirol Easter Market
The Haller Ostermarkt or Easter market of Hall in Tirol is a must-visit even if it’s only held over two days.
More than 25 stalls selling handmade Easter decorations are sprawled around the Stiftsplatz in this pretty medieval old town. In the Baroque hall of the adjacent school, artists work on and display their unique Easter egg art. The exhibition is called “Kunst am Ei”.
Hall in Tirol Easter market dates: 23 and 24 March 2018
Tyrol Easter Festival
2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the Osterfestival Tirol. Held in venues across Innsbruck and Hall in Tirol, the festival presents different art forms under a new motto each year. This year’s motto is über.leben (sur.vival). From old to modern, from music and dance to dialogue and film – the Tyrol Easter Festival productions offer something for everyone. Find the detailed programme here.
Tyrol Easter Festival dates: 16 March to 1 April 2018
Or you could opt for a Tyrolean evening with traditional dance and food.
Easter in Vienna
Vienna Easter markets
Schönbrunn Palace – 17 March to 2 April 2018, daily from 10:00 to 18:00
With the palace as a backdrop, you won’t find a more romantic setting for an Easter market in Vienna.
More than 60 exhibitors sell their handmade Easter decorations and traditional Easter treats. An Easter bunny workshop keeps children busy while their parents browse through the stalls. They can also join the Easter nest hunt on Easter Sunday.
For adults, there is entertainment in the form of “Jazz at the Easter Market”.
Hotel tip: The Radisson Blu Park Royal Palace Hotel is just around the corner from Schönbrunn Palace.
Old Viennese Easter market on Freyung – 16 March to 2 April 2018, daily from 10:00 to 19:30
Imagine a tower of 40,000 beautifully painted Easter eggs. This is what you will find on the Freyung square in Vienna’s old city. The old Viennese Easter market is also known for Easter specialties such as Osterpinze and roast lamb, handicrafts, and flowers.
Easter music in Vienna
The Vienna Symphony Orchestra is holding its annual televised Easter concert “Spring in Vienna” on Easter Sunday.
Hungarian conductor Ádám Fischer and the Janoska Ensemble from Slovakia will take you on a journey along the Danube with works from Brahms, Dvorák, and J. Strauss.
Date: 1 April 2018
Place: The Great Hall of the Wien Musikverein (Vienna Music Association)
If the best seats are already sold out, why not book one of these popular classical concerts?
Easter in Salzburg
Easter markets in Salzburg
The biggest traditional Easter market in Salzburg is held on 28 March 2018 at the Open Air Museum in Grossgmain outside the city. You can try your hand at egg decorating, tying pussy willow bouquets, and fill your Easter basket with fresh produce and homemade delicacies from local farms.
The Open Air Museum is open every day from 09:00 to 18:00 over the Easter period. There is a special Easter egg hunt for children on Easter Sunday.
Hotel tip: The Altstadt Hotel Hofwirt is good value for money and walking distance from everything.
Salzburg Easter Festival
Salzburg is better known for its Osterfestspiele (Easter Festival) than for its Easter markets. The Salzburg Easter Festival lasts for 10 days from the Saturday before Palm Sunday to Easter Monday. During this time, music lovers can look forward to high-quality opera, orchestral and choral concerts, and chamber music.
In 2018, a new production of Tosca with conductor Christian Thielemann is the highlight of the Salzburg Easter Festival.
Salzburg Easter Festival dates: 24 March to 2 April 2018.02.28
Find details about tickets for all the productions here. Or book one of these other popular concerts.
Best destinations for Easter ski holidays in Austria
With Easter falling in March and the snow conditions still good, there is no reason why you shouldn’t combine your Easter visit to Austria with a skiing holiday. Tyrol is perfect for this. Why? While you are close to the ski slopes, Innsbruck and Hall in Tirol are also easily accessible if you want to visit some Easter markets or attend one of the Tyrol Easter Festival concerts.
These are 5 perfect regions to use as a base for your Easter ski break in Austria.
Did you know there are 9 ski resorts totalling 300 km of slopes within a 45 km radius from Innsbruck? I think this is more than enough reason to base yourself here for an Easter ski holiday in Austria. Free ski buses to all 9 resorts and an all-inclusive ski pass provide even better motivation.
This widest side valley to the Inn is home to the Zillertal Arena ski area, the largest in this part of the Alps. If you continue far enough, you will reach the Hintertux Glacier with its 60 km of diverse runs. After a day on the slopes, the villages in the Ziller Valley provide enough Easter entertainment for you to remember what time of the year it is.
Adjacent to the Zillertal, the Alpbach Valley (Alpbachtal) is characterised by quaint Alpine Villages and smaller ski resorts. The Ski Jewel Alpbachtal Wildschönau is especially popular among families.
The entrance to the Stubai Valley (Stubaital) is not even 10 minutes away from Innsbruck, with the first ski resort in Mieders only 5 minutes further. No doubt the big skiing attraction is the Stubai Glacier at the end of the valley but Schlick 2000 in Fulpmes shouldn’t be underestimated. Consider the 11er Lift in Neustift if you want to go sledding or paragliding.
Seefeld in Tirol
Seefeld in Tirol needs no introduction to regular visitors to Austria and Tyrol. It’s a picturesque town close to the German border about 27 km north of Innsbruck. The Bergbahnen Rosshütte, the largest ski resort in the area, is great for beginners and families.
Austrian Easter traditions
Easter in Austria is a spring celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death on the cross.
Palm Sunday heralds the start of the Holy Week (Karwoche) in this predominantly Catholic country. However, in the absence of palm branches (with which the crowds welcomed Jesus in Jerusalem) the Austrians tie pussy willow branches together.
The Palmbuschen, as they are called, are decorated with ribbons, apples, and special Easter Bretze (pretzels). On Palm Sunday, churchgoers take the bushes to be blessed by the local priest.
Some Palm Sunday traditions are unique to specific towns. For example, in Thaur near Innsbruck in Tyrol, a carved wooden replica of the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem, with an almost life-size figure of Him, is pulled through the town on a cart.
In Kramsach and Imst, also in Tyrol, the pussy willow bushes are the main attraction. Young men compete to make the highest bush, with some reaching up to 30 metres and weighing around 300 kg.
Other towns in Austria silence their church bells between Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday. Instead of the bells, children make a noise with wooden instruments called Ratschen.
As in many other countries, Austrian kids frantically search gardens and homes for Easter eggs on Easter Sunday.
Easter in Austria is also a time where children receive presents from their godparents. My poor South African son struggles to understand that 1) this is not part of our tradition as Afrikaans Protestants, and 2) he has no godparents near to convince them otherwise.
Interestingly, Easter Friday is not a public holiday like in so many other countries around the world. Only Easter Monday is a religious public holiday.
Hand painted eggs and other Austrian Easter decorations
Austrians love decorating their homes and gardens according to specific themes. By looking at their front doors, you can usually tell what time of the year it is. Easter is no exception.
Brightly coloured hand painted eggs hang from trees and shrubs, while colourful spring flowers bloom in pots resembling hens or eggs.
I wonder how many eggs are pricked with sewing needles every year during Easter in Austria to make tiny holes through which to blow the content out. The hollow shells become canvasses for big and small artists, with the serious artists taking pride in the variety of eggs they can find to create their masterpieces on.
We discovered from miniscule snails’ eggs to ostrich eggs at the annual Easter egg art exhibition in Hall in Tirol. One artist even paints on the first ever egg laid by a chicken, which he excitedly explains comes from a farmer friend. These are much smaller than normal eggs and contain no yolk.
Special Austrian Easter treats
Many Austrians still adhere to the rules of fasting and abstinence during the 40-day period of Lent before Easter. Some give up alcohol, while others abstain from eating sweets. Even the kids are encouraged to give up something that is important to them.
When Lent is officially over on Easter Sunday, brunch tables are subsequently laden with recently forbidden treats. The delicacies include cakes in the shape of a lamb (the Osterlamm), sweet breads, cold cuts with horseradish, and lots of eggs.
The closest thing to a hot cross bun (the traditional sweet Easter bread roll in South Africa and Britain), is probably an Osterpinze with raisins. Freshly baked Osterpinze from the local bakeries is in high demand during this time.
Real hard-boiled eggs seem to be just as popular as their chocolate counterparts. As South Africans, we find this strange. The eggs are dyed different colours and sold in supermarkets. I completely understand why most kids are not impressed when given one of these instead of a chocolate egg. Of the latter, Austrians can pick and choose from the best European chocolate brands, including Lindt.
Reber is the chocolate brand mostly associated with Austria because of the famous Mozart-Kugel. Strictly speaking, Reber is a German brand. But because the factory in Bad Reichenhall in Bavaria is only 21 km from Salzburg where Mozart was born and raised, most people consider it to be an “Austrian chocolate”. Of course, Reber also brings out a special Easter range each year.
For Easter treats from true Austrian brands, try Casali Schokobananen and Manner wafer biscuits. If you don’t like them, no-one will blame you if you stick to the German Milka. The latter is by far the favourite among Austrian children.
Tips for a pleasant Easter in Austria
- Remember almost all shops are closed on Sundays and public holidays. A few supermarkets at train stations and in city centres may be open but it’s best to be prepared by buying everything you need the day before.
- Join a church service in an Austrian village to witness Easter traditions first hand.
- The weather in March and April can be very unpredictable. We have walked around with bare arms at Easter markets, enjoying the lovely spring sunshine. We have also had to don full winter gear, including hats, scarves, and gloves. Expect any weather no matter what the forecasts say and pack accordingly for Easter in Austria.
- Last but not least – learn how to say Happy Easter in German: Frohe Ostern!
* This article is updated each year to bring you up-to-date information about Easter in Austria.
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